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Publication: The Southampton Press
Hamptons Branding: What's In A Name?
May 21, 2018 10:56 AM
By Frank S. Costanza
A growing gourmet sandwich chain that will soon boast 10 locations has the attention of outside investors, and shares its name with the easternmost township on the South Fork.
A bar and grill is located in the heart of one of the world's largest and most famous cities, yet derives its name from Southampton Town's newest and, arguably, most bucolic villages, one that just so happens to be one of the "top 10 most expensive zip codes" in the country, according to Forbes magazine.
So what do the East Hampton Sandwich Company, which operates shops throughout northeast Texas, including Dallas and Fort Worth, and Manhattan's Sagaponack Bar and Grill have in common, aside from being in the food industry?
Exactly the same thing as many East End entrepreneurs—regardless if they're selling booze (Montauk Brewing Company), confections (Hampton Chocolate Company), dental care (East Hampton Dental Group), more booze (Sag Harbor Rum), coffee (Hampton Coffee Company), smokes (Hampton Cigar Company), pest control services (Hamptons Pest Management), or even more booze (Westhampton Beach Brewing Company).
They're cashing in on the world-famous "Hamptons" name, a growing branding that can be easily tweaked depending on what's being peddled, but in most instances implies that potential customers deserve fresh, high-quality and stress-free experiences.
But individual motivations vary significantly from one business to the next, meaning that some are more interested in selling a generic and often inaccurate image of what The Hamptons is like, while others—namely, those who live or have spent significant time in the area—are simply trying to highlight the East End's authentic virtues.
A Sandwich Empire
Though his representatives did not respond to multiple requests for interviews—a very "Hamptons thing" to do—Hunter Pond, the founder and CEO of the East Hampton Sandwich Company, shared in a 2014 interview with the Dallas Eater website that his name choice was designed to feed off (pun intended) the East End's stellar culinary reputation.
When asked about the name, Mr. Pond, who had recently turned 30, stated: "Everyone thinks of East Hampton as an upscale area, and that's one of the reasons I thought it was a good fit for our concept. Our prices are probably 10 to 15 percent higher than the Jersey Mike's and Potbellys of the world, and I wanted to make sure people understood they were getting a premium product out of that as well.
"You can still come into East Hampton and get out of here for lunch under 10 bucks," he continued in the 2014 interview. "The lobster roll is expensive, but where are you going to get a nine-dollar lobster roll? It's funny, I see people comment on Yelp about the lobster roll being expensive, but ours is the cheapest lobster roll in Dallas." (Fast-forward four years, and while still inexpensive by Hampton standards, Mr. Pond's lobster rolls now cost $18.95 each, according to the company's online menu.)
A year later, in an interview with the Dallas Observer, conducted shortly after he was named one of Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30" young entrepreneurs to watch, Mr. Pond admits that his connection to The Hamptons is slim at best. When questioned about his decision, Dallas's "Sandwich King" said he visited the area "as a little kid, but the main reason I chose the name East Hampton Sandwich Company is because I wanted something that elevated the expectations for customers before they even walked in the door."
He later added: "The Hamptons immediately came to mind as a place that was super bright, clean and fresh. When you think of the Hamptons, you think high quality. And that's what our sandwiches are."
His formula seems to be working, too. In August 2017, CIC Partners of Dallas, a middle-market private equity firm, announced that it was investing in the East Hampton Sandwich Company, noting that it had been "named one of America's 21 best sandwich shops in 2017," according to a company press release.
Wining And Dining
The motivation driving Franco Lee, owner and head chef at the Sagaponack Bar and Grill in New York City, is perhaps a bit more rooted in personal experience. In a recent interview, Mr. Lee explained that he first learned about Sagaponack, the village, when he and his then-girlfriend, Yuna, visited the Wölffer Estate Vineyard several years earlier.
Though he had no hand in naming his popular restaurant—the prior owner whom he bought the business from three years ago had picked it—Mr. Lee said he jumped at the opportunity to take over the eatery, mostly because it would afford him the opportunity to show off the skills he learned in culinary school and, immediately after graduation, at Morimoto's restaurant in Chelsea.
He also seized the opportunity to fill his seafood-centric menu with locally grown and harvested items. As noted on his restaurant's website, his oysters are raised at the Fisher Island Oyster Farm, which sits north and east of Sagaponack Village, and one of the more popular dishes is his Long Island duck served with a balsamic glaze.
"We try to source most of our products from New York and [the] Long Island region," Mr. Lee said, noting that much of his produce comes from Satur Farms and Koppert Cress, both in Cutchogue. "We only carry locally brewed beer like Montauk Brewing Company, Fire Island, Blue Point, etc. And, of course, our biggest, Wölffer winery."
He also said that his restaurant's unique name is frequently the subject of impromptu conversations among his diners, while it has also drawn in some fairly famous customers as well. "It's amazing, because I feel as some guests know it, and some have no idea," he said of the Sagaponack name. "They even have a hard time pronouncing it!
"But we did have Jimmy Fallon come in randomly, and he said, 'I have a house in Sagaponack.'"
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